Solid waste fees may rise
June 17, 2008 · Updated 3:17 PM
After six years of steady losses, daily operations of the county solid waste division are finally out of the red.
Still, the recent financial turnaround -- due primarily to fee hikes, cuts in labor costs and a 10-year contract for commingled recycling signed earlier this year with Waste Management of Washington -- is not enough to pay for overdue capital improvements at the countys three transfer stations, according to Jon Shannon, manager of the solid waste division.
Shannon estimates the division will fall $133, 000 short of whats needed this year to properly maintain equipment, account for depreciation or set aside funds for future capital investments. As an enterprise fund, which is supposed to pay its way by generating revenue, the division lacks both a capital fund and a reserve account, Shannon noted last week during a presentation of the divisions fiscal dilemma to county commissioners.
Shannon suggested a fee increase on garbage, boosting the countys 10-percent excise tax, raising the minimum charge, installing a gate-fee, or adopting some combination of the four as possible strategies to build a capital account for the division.
The good news is that operations have benefited from an increase in efficiency and decreased costs resulting in a stable rate for the short term, Shannon stated in his report. The bad news is that the solid waste system infrastructure is in poor condition, suffers from a lack of maintenance and at least one facility, the San Juan Island transfer station, is currently operating beyond capacity.
Commissioners are expected to review the divisions financial needs and the suggested strategies at a later and yet undetermined date. Currently, Shannon, the county Solid Waste Advisory Committee, and a consultant group are crafting an updated management plan for the division.